Sanitary pads, a necessity or a luxury ?

-JANHVI KRISHNATREY

I was never more embarrassed in my life than the time, the cashier at my local hypermarket told me the cost of the sanitary pads I had just bought and I didn’t have enough cash on me to purchase them.

Before moving to a new city, I was living with my parents and my mother always bought the necessary hygiene products for me, so when I had to buy the first packet of pads, I was shocked at the price they came at. Something that is a necessity for millions of girls in the country is taxed.

The sanitary pads I used before coming to college was Rs.270, which now as a college student, is the cost of three meals for four days. According to this cost, it would take all the money of a person who is below the poverty line. So, are women who are below poverty line not allowed to have their periods or are they supposed to use unsanitary ways during their periods because the government feels a basic bodily function is a luxury ?

I decided to ask the women around me what they feel about the cost of their sanitary pads.

Satakshi Singh, a college student herself said, “I had to change the product I was using because of its high cost and I prefer using a cheaper product than spending so much money”.

The women around me feel that the cost was outrageous and sanitary pads are something that should not be taxed.

I got a different point of view from Taarini Gupta, a classmate of mine, she said, ”Even if you put the cost of sanitary pads as Rs. 10, people who only have that much money would use it to buy food rather than buying sanitary pads”.

Another classmate Mehak Sidhu made a very important point where she mentioned that the government rather than getting affiliated with NGOs to help people who can’t afford these pads, should get affiliated with the companies that sell these products, for example, Whisper, Stayfree, etc. so that the companies can earn profits and provide their products to people who can’t afford it.

Mrs. Ruchi Krishnatrey teaches at a government school. In a discussion about this issue, she mentioned that the girls in her class would miss school for days and when asked, they said it is because they were menstruating and it has to do with the fact that these girls use a piece of cloth as sanitary pads because it is cheaper and it’s all they can afford and to be ‘safe’ they have to miss school.

Ruchi Krishnatrey. Credits: Jahnvi Krishnatrey

There have been efforts made by people to provide affordable and biodegradable sanitary pads and one of them is by Mr. Mahesh Khandelwal, a scientist and an entrepreneur, who made these sanitary pads called ‘We’, they cost Rs 10 per packet of six pads. They are also Eco-friendly and are manufactured by women, this way it also helps them in earning wages. This is a very noble initiative but it has not reached the level of popularity and attention it deserves. Also these pads are not available everywhere, which deflates the whole point of this project.

Talking to Mrs. Mahalaxmi, a cleaning staff at Christ University, she mentioned that she spends Rs. 40 every month to buy pads and it is expensive for her, she however understands the importance of having proper sanitation during periods and she also understands that not maintaining proper hygiene could lead to infectious diseases. But not everyone is as educated about the pertaining issue as Mrs. Mahalaxmi, also, there are a lot of women who use cloth and even make their daughters use cloth. Another cleaning staff Mrs. Suman, who has a daughter studying in 9th standard, said “My daughter uses the cloth when she is on her periods because we have never used pads ever and disposing them is a problem.” Mrs. Suman mentioned that the school provides with sanitary pads every month but since they don’t know how to use it and dispose it, her daughter is still using a cloth piece. So educators need to make an effort to educate these girls, in fact, elders should educate even young boys so that we manage to remove the taboos associated with menstruation.

Mrs. Mahalaxmi. Credits: Janhvi Krishnatrey

Talking to Mahalaxmi and Suman, has shed light on the fact that a lot of people are not educated about sanitary pads and people who know about it are not sure if it is cost worthy of their hard earned money.

I decided to take a male’s perspective on this issue and when I asked a guy about the price of sanitary pads, he had no idea how much they cost and was really surprised that they were so expensive and he said that it was truly sad that women have to pay an unnecessary amount of money for something so necessary. He also mentioned how condoms cost only Rs.20 and these are of good quality and are available everywhere.

So a condom is cheaper and more easily available than pads that are a necessity for every woman.

Why is that women are taxed on a bodily function?

Menstrual hygiene should be a birthright, and not a ‘high standard crowd’ restricted element.

There is nothing luxurious about a girl’s periods and we can only hope the government realizes something as obvious as that, and makes efforts to improve upon this issue as it needs immediate attention. Taxation on sanitary napkins and anything which is a necessity, for normally functioning humans, makes it look like a profit-making scam and not welfare-oriented endeavor on the part of the government .

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